Take Jesus at His Word - Pastor John Roekle
May 26, 2019 [Easter 6] John 14:23–29 J.D.Roekle
23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
Take Jesus at His Word
Dear Friends in Christ,
In 1975, a child rights advocate by the name of Roger Hart conducted a study on where children felt safe to play. He focused on 86 children between the ages of three to twelve in a small town in Vermont. He would follow the kids throughout the day, documenting everywhere the children went by themselves. He figured out the distance each child was allowed to go by themselves and what the average was for every age group.
The researcher discovered that these kids had remarkable freedom. Even four- or five-year-olds traveled unsupervised throughout their neighborhoods, and by the time they were 10, most of the kids had the run of the entire town. And the kids' parents weren't worried either.
Then several years ago (about 2014), he went back to the same town to document the children of the children that he had originally tracked in the '70s, and when he asked the new generation of kids to show him where they played alone, what he found floored him. He said, "They just didn't have very far to take me, just walking around their property." In other words, the huge circle of freedom on the maps had grown tiny.
He added, "There is no free range outdoors. Even when the kids are older, parents now say, 'I need to know where you are at all times.'" But what's odd about all of this, is that the town is not more dangerous than it was before. There's literally no more crime today than there was 40 years ago.
So why has the invisible leash between parent and child tightened so much? The researcher says it was absolutely clear from his interviews. The reason was fear. He concluded that fear of the world outside our door narrows the circle of our lives.
As the study demonstrates, fear can be debilitating. That’s the truth no matter what the fear is. What do you fear most? Something bad happening to your child? Something bad happening to your parent? Contracting a serious sickness or disease? Losing your job? Whatever the case is, our lives need not be ruled by fear. That’s because you and I have Jesus’ comforting words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Let’s take Jesus at his Word!
Now Jesus spoke these words as he was gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room on the night he was betrayed. It was the day before the most violent day he would face. Jesus was trying to prepare them for it with these words. In just a matter of hours, their lives would be filled with fear.
And what prompted Jesus’ line of thought in these verses was a question by one on his disciples: “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
The question showed that they didn’t fully grasp what Jesus was all about. There was still this thought in their minds that Jesus would come to be some kind of bread king over a visible earthly kingdom. But with Jesus’ words, he wanted them to know that they were misunderstanding why he was appearing to them at this time.
Jesus came to earth for a specific purpose. He came with a mission in mind. And his time on earth was limited, and so therefore his time with people was limited. In fact, it was limited to only about 33 years; 30 years of which he spent in his hometown of Nazareth. And even for the 3 years that Jesus spent in public ministry, he traveled only in Israel, from Galilee to Judea.
The way in which Jesus would get his message out was through them. Through his disciples. But soon, these disciples would be paralyzed by fear. And it wasn’t because Jesus didn’t prepare them well enough. He repeated things over and over to them. But they didn’t get it. Not yet, anyway.
But nonetheless, Jesus was there preparing them for the time he would no longer be visible to them, when he would return in glory to heaven. They needed every bit of Jesus’ preparation. They needed Jesus’ patient instruction. It would be that very evening when Jesus would be arrested and all would flee in fear. It would only spiral down for them from there. They would witness their Savior being brutally treated. The scourging. Spitting. Mocking. Nails through hands and feet. Jesus exposed in the air for all the world to see. His last breath. And finally his burial.
They needed Jesus reminder of why he was going through all of that. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” When Jesus went through these things, they didn’t catch on that he was winning peace for them. In fact, where do we see the disciples on the day Jesus rose? Cowering in fear and huddled together in a hidden room. Even though Jesus repeatedly said he would rise on the third day, they still didn’t grasp it.
In fact, it wasn’t until Jesus patiently reminded them in his many appearances to them. And as he appeared to them, he also reminded them that he wouldn’t be with them visibly much longer. Jesus knew they weren’t understanding all of this. That’s why he also told them: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
That’s when it all became clear to them. When Jesus left! Once he ascended, they had the complete picture. Jesus would suffer and die for our salvation in order to bring us peace. Jesus would rise to assure us that our sins are indeed forgiven. Jesus would then return to his Father’s side – just as he always intended. And not to sit there idly. Jesus returned to heaven in order to prepare a place for us in heaven. In order to prepare us for the time he would return.
Just as he didn’t leave his disciples without what they needed, he also doesn’t leave you and me without everything we need. You have his Word on that! Believe it! When you do, you have true peace.
When everything is going well, it’s easy to believe it, right? It is easy, that is, until one of our fears is realized. It is then that our faith is tested. And we begin to question the Lord. Where were you Jesus when this happened? Why aren’t you around now while I’m going through this?
So what do we do with those fears? Many times we create a diversion. If I’m not thinking about it, maybe it will just go away. Or we perhaps try to create another reality for ourselves. Isn’t that what leads to additions of various kinds? At the very least it can lead to bad habits such as ignoring God’s Word by not reading it or by not coming to church or by not listening to it when you are in church.
Of course, when we are faced with fear, we have a choice to make: either ignore what Jesus says or take him at his Word. Ignoring Jesus doesn’t make the fear go away. Listening to Jesus puts everything in perspective for you. Listening to Jesus quells your fear.
The truth of the matter is, that because Jesus lives, you have nothing to fear! Isn’t that what Jesus said? He told you your hearts need not be troubled. You need not fear, because he took care of the permanent effects of sin by suffering hell itself in your place, and he lives to tell you about it!
And so you have peace. Not the kind of peace the world strives after. Peace from war. Peace from violence. Peace among family or peace between neighbors. You have peace with the Almighty God because your sin has disappeared before God’s sight through the blood of Jesus. Having this peace, the circle of your life has expanded dramatically. It now reaches all the way to heavenly glory with Jesus. Don’t just take my word for it. Take Jesus at his Word! Amen.